Thursday Nano Hacks: Making Black IPod Headphones


We are starting a new feature for Thursdays here at Hack A Day: Thursday Nano Hacks. Our “hack” for the day is more of a mod out of necessity: Those ugly white headphones with a black iPod nano? Ew! Please come back next Thursday for a real iPod nano hack alrighty?

Scroll on for our little stroll through recoloring cables, and please read the conclusion. (Let’s just say that this hack is not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.)

What you will need:
– iPod headphones. They only come in white.
– PlastiDip in black (we used the dipping kind, but we recommend the spray aerosol kind in black)
– a tiny paintbrush you can throw out when you’re finished
– toothpicks
– stick or chopstick to stir the PlastiDip
– coathangers
– masking tape
– lots of time to waste

First put down some paper on your workspace. Here is our protected table with our horribly mismatched iPod headphones and black iPod nano:


Next we taped off the headphones and the metal part of the mini jack connector with masking tape and made ourselves a drying rack out of two old coathangers:


Next we stirred the PlastiDip in the can with an old chopstick and using a paintbrush carefully painted the cables in small short strokes. If you miss a spot you can fix it after the fact by touching up when it’s dry. When globbing happens, just wait for it to dry and peel off the area that is having issues. PlastiDip unlike spray paint peels right off the iPod headphone cables. Be sure to peel off the masking tape just when the PlastiDip first starts to set before it’s fully dry. We decided to paint together the small plastic part where the cables split in a Y.


When the cables are dry (should take about half an hour or so) prep the headphones. You can alternatively decide to leave them white. We, however, were not satisfied until the whole thing was black black black. Carefully cut masking tape with a box cutter or other sharp knife to the exact circle of metal and don’t forget to leave a tab to peel this part off. Break off the last milimeter of halved toothpicks and force them into the seven holes on the backside of each headphone. This will keep the “port” holes open.


Carefully paint the PlastiDip (perhaps this product should be known as PlastiPaint for our purposes) on the headphones without dislodging the toothpicks. Once again, remove the masking tape just before the PlastiDip fully dries to keep the edges smooth. Remove the toothpicks at this time as well. You will now have a headphone that looks something like this (we chose to leave the L and R markers un-painted):


Yes it is rather lumpy in the previous image, but have no fear if you feel like redoing it, the PlastiDip peels off if you start the peeling an edge.

Here is our finished set of iPod headphones and our (really scratched up) black iPod nano:


Conclusion: Is this mod worth it? No. This hack is really pointless as far as time and effort are concerned. It’s really hard to get the PlastiDip on the cables smoothly. If you experiment with black spray on PlastiDip please let us know. Our correspondent [markie] tried spray painting with conventional paint and eventually the paint cracked which is why we went with PlastiDip in the first place. However, besides the technical aspects of re-coloring, the iPod headphones are really bad quality compared to even cheap in ear heaphones by other manufacturers.Go out and get yourself a good sounding set of black headphones instead of attempting this mod.

Tune in next week as we start our weekly devotion to hacking the heck out of the iPod nano. Yes, next week’s hack will actually involve opening the iPod nano to add functionality. If you have any ideas for nano hacks for our Thursday nano hacks feature or if you have already hacked your iPod nano, shout us a holler dog.

49 thoughts on “Thursday Nano Hacks: Making Black IPod Headphones

  1. Aren’t ipod headphone cables covered in PTFE (Teflon is E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company’s trademarked name for it)? I cut apart an extra ipod/usb cable when hacking my CVS camera and I’m pretty sure that it is. is there anything that’ll stain PTFE?

  2. heat shrink tubing would be a lot cleaner, and you have your tidy whitey’s cable underneath for when you change your mind. and doubt apple will handle warranty on defaced headphones.

  3. Ok, thats just a pain in the ass. Here is what you do.

    Take a pair of headphones with black cables and dismantle them.

    Then take the white iPod headphones, they screw apart, desolder the cable and then paint the buds if you want, then solder the new cable on.

  4. Isnt it easier and better just to go buy some headphones like some Sennheiser MX400 for like 11 dollars shipped. I never like the ipod headphones to begin with. they look a lot better then white on black

  5. Vinyl Dye works much better and produces a much cleaner finished product (much more durible aswell). Its Cheaper too, just do the same thing they did but use black vinyl dye (Like $3 at walmart for a big can)

  6. I dunno about the Apple headphones being poor quality. I’ve been on the hunt for a while now and have not found anything better, but plenty worse. Not being made of money, I haven’t tried the >$150 in ear styles, such as Etymotic, etc., but in the <$99 range, I haven't found diddley. I'm wondering if Apple is going to introduce black headphones when they get the lanyard style to market.

  7. us a mix- vinyl dye or plastidip for the flexible cables, and enamel paint for the buds and blug (and any other hard plastic components). The finish will be a lot smoother and cleaner, and the cable’s won’t crack.

  8. idea: buy some black headphones, for $10 or less you can get some good ones.
    Not only will it go with it, but it will be BETTER, use less energy, etc.
    The Ipod headphones realy suck.
    Also i realy feel bad for the people who own Nanos, they get scratched very easily, so you but it in a case, then it looks ugly, but doesn’t get messed up, but the reason for geting the black is for looks.
    Hackaday should be posting a case project for it, because that’s what it realy needs A GOOD CASE.

  9. Never said that the ipod headphones are poor. But for $7+s/h you get a very nice pair of mx400 (try amazon)which are not the best but still a step up from the ipod phones. They just have to much of a mellow bass. But of couse why have an ipod if no one can see that you own an ipod cuz you dont have the distinctive headphones

  10. 11:

    That might be the Krylon Fusion paint, which I actually just used for a laptop recoloring project (goodbye cheap old silver, hello satin black.) It is intended for and bonds with plastics, but I’m not sure about the flexibility of it (the bend-hinge port protector on the back of the laptop is already lightly flecking in the groove, but it also flexs to almost 90 degrees, which is rather much), also I’m not sure how thin a coat would be possible before scuffing would be an issue, it’d be okay for the earbuds, but definately not the cables. If I had a black nano and a spare pair I’d try it, but disassembly first, of course.

  11. or you can just go ahead and purchase the sony headphones that match the nano, they are alot better then the ones that come with the nana and they also have a cool little carrying case and feel a shit load better in the ear.

  12. Yeah, I would say vynl (cant spell.. you know records) dye woudl be the best… just spray it on… you can use it to spray your keyboard black and the texture and letters will still come through.

  13. iPod headphones are bad? I thought thaz whaz so cool about iPods: perfect sound quality, especially with their headphones. My shuffle has better sound quality than any MP3 Player I’ve heard so far, although Creative hella good, too.

    Tell me more stuff about iPod soundquality people, I feel kinda robbed for some reason. That was the main reason I bought my iPod =(.

    Thanx in advance!
    Red hot Chili Pepper

  14. I use my sony headphones with my Nano, but apparently Apple made a huge effort to improve the quality of sound that the headphones give as they have been getting a bit of stick about it. I’ve not tried them, but apparently the headphones packaged with the Nano are a lot better than the past efforts.

  15. Well, I’ve always loved my Sony MX-51. They’re cool, as they’re in ear and they actually cost less than the iPod headphones. The sound quality is great and they have very good isolation. Of course, they are black. If you can’t tell the difference between the iPod headphones and these, then more power to you. So much of audio is just pschological. I personally like these, as I percieve details in the music I never heard before in my music, but some people aren’t as perceptive to these details, so headphones aren’t such a big deal to them. I’m not trying to insult people who can’t notice these details, I’m just saying you can save money.

  16. In addition ot 17:

    Bit of a late update, and I don’t know if anyone will see it, but I tried some vinyl/fabric coat paint on a wifi antenna and it’s cable, and even within minutes of painting the coat was able to withstand fingernail abrassions and after a few hours even a thick coating had sucked in and adheared suprisingly well to the plastic, while keeping the original surface texture. Now this was just some Duplicolor stuff I grabbed from Auto Zone (as per a mention I came across while searching Google for more information of Vinyl Dye) and it seems to me, at least at this early point of a few good hours to dry, that it’d be the right thing for the earbuds. I’m as of ye tunsure about durability, but the touchability of it gives me a confident feeling that I won’t mar the surface, and the wire is still flexible without cracking. If anything changes in the future I’ll post a follow-up.

  17. I tried dipping my ipod headphones in black latex – but it peels off to easily. So I ended up gettign the next best thing… black silicone earbud covers that i found searching on google at The headphones are now black and white, a big improvement

  18. Alright, for all of you that keep complaining that the black nano gets scratched easier, that’s BS! They both get scratched THE SAME. The difference is that the scratches *show up* easier on the black nano.

    I’m just leaving the original plastic coating on until I can get a case. that works for me.

    Honestly, you knew it happened and you still bought it, and now you complain. Grow up

    –Owner of a black iPod Nano

  19. u guyz all nd lyvez…y even buy an ipod nano…thtz down ryt dumb…tha creative zen micro photo iz onlii $40 more than tha 4g nano and iz waiii better…sooo…u bought a nano so shuttup n dun whinge…

    – black ipod video 30gb owner

  20. Hey all,

    Just thought I’d add that there’s an ipod protector called “Invisible Shield” and it works just like that Clairvue product. It covers the entire Nano and protects it from scatches. It’s made out of a material that the U.S. military placed on helicoptor blades for protection against fast moving particles. So bascially, you get MORE protection than you’ll ever need and I’ll tell you what, I feel safe knowing that my ipod is protected with such a durable material. Oh, and I almost forgot, no bubbles with this product either. =)

  21. i am a deejay, my two mp3 players are an iaudio u2 and the new ipod nano, what do i know about sound? use pro pioneer stuff, also a motorcycle rider, gone thru tons of in ear/earbud type headphones and found the sweetest ones in the world:

    Skullcandy SC-SBB3.5 Smokin’ Earbud Black ($20 from staples)

    but when going on a trip and i cant believe my luck, i use them all the time now, check em out u cant go wrong for $20

  22. Hi erm i painted my ipod headphones with accrylic paint but i didnt cover up those holes on the back, but you put those cocktail sitcks in there so i dont know what to do now :S , what will happen to them now can i go def because of it :S please help thanks

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